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Dear Fiona: Why can’t my parents understand I don’t want to settle down and have children?

03 June 2021

The problem…

“My parents are so keen for me to have children, they’re putting a lot of pressure on me to marry and settle down. The problem is, I am more than happy to remain single! As I went to live with them during the last lockdown, the pressure has been ongoing for several months now.

“Obviously, I’ve not had anyone in my life recently. But I had several men in my life before the pandemic and I’ve no reason to think that once things are back to normal, they will return. I have a great social life and, at 29, I’m nowhere near ready to even think about settling down. On top of that – and as far as my parents are concerned, this is a big issue – I’m pretty certain I don’t want children.

“I don’t get maternal feelings around children at all – in fact, I find having other people’s children around positively irritating! I’m sure I’d be a diabolical parent. Until they can hold a reasonable conversation, I try and avoid being in the company of children at all.

“This continued pressure from my parents is beginning to get me down, and I don’t know what’s the best way to tell them to stop going on about it. Are there any organisations that could help?”

Fiona says…

“You have a right to decide what it best for you. At the moment, it sounds as if you’re not ready to commit to a relationship, let alone consider having children with anyone.

“Although right now you’re happy as you are, you say you’re ‘pretty certain’ that you don’t want children, so you haven’t dismissed the idea completely. Nonetheless, remaining ‘child-free’ (as opposed to ‘child-less’ – someone who wants children but is unable to have them for some reason) is an increasingly popular lifestyle choice.

“I absolutely believe you’re right to think having children should be a conscious decision. Yes, accidents happen and sometimes people are delighted – but not every child is a wanted child, which is tragic. How much happier would children be if they were actively wanted?

Mum and daughter

“From your parents’ perspective, you are rejecting their life choices by refusing to settle with someone and have a child. That may be hard for them but as a parent myself, I know children don’t always do what we expect or want for them and that we must accept those choices, even when it’s hard.

“When you don’t conform to what people regard as ‘normal’ (in this case, settling into a relationship and having children as soon as possible), they can become aggressive – I hope your parents aren’t like that. Whether they are or whether they are just confused though is their problem, not yours.

“There are ways you can help them to understand though and you might be interested in some of the numerous books on the subject – use ‘child-free’ in a search engine for options. Perhaps also look at the website – an international group. The stories related on there by other people might help you.

“Ultimately though, as long as you show people you are happy with your life and your choices, most will give you the space you need – even if they can’t understand.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to [email protected] for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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